Taking part in extreme endurance events causes intestinal bacteria to leak into the bloodstream, leading to serious infection, a new study revealed.
Researchers said their findings came after analysing people who participated in fitness events, including ultra-marathons, and multi-stage marathons which span consecutive days.
Dr Ricardo Costa, of the University of Monash, said: ‘Blood samples taken before and after the events, compared with a control group, proved that exercise over a prolonged period of time causes the gut wall to change.
‘This allows the naturally present bacteria, known as endotoxins, in the gut to leak into the bloodstream.’
This then triggers an inflammatory response throughout the body from it’s immune cells, similar to a serious infection, he added.
As part of the study, Dr Costa and his team examined people taking part in a 24-hour ultra-marathon and multi-stage ultra-marathons.
These are events in which people run for longer than the standard 26 miles (42km), and often run for long distances on consecutive days.
‘Nearly all of the participants in our study had blood markers identical to patients admitted to hospital with blood poisoning,’ Dr Costa said.
They discovered fit and healthy individuals who follow a steady training program to build up to extreme endurance events develop immune mechanisms to counteract the body’s inflammatory reaction, without any side effects.
This meant they were protected against developing blood poisoning.
But those who were unfit and who carried out little training put their bodies under enormous strain, above the immune system’s protective capacity.
In extreme cases, it leads to sepsis induced systemic inflammatory response syndrome, a condition which can be fatal if it is not diagnosed and treated promptly.
The study is the first to identify a link between extreme endurance exercise and the stress it may place on the gut.
P.s (So the next time you are thinking about such extreme levels of exercising…..Think again..!!)